World-class sculptor comissioned to create Women of Steel memorial

The unveiling of the Larkin Statue at Paragon Station, Ferensway, Hull.  Pictured is Sculptor Martin Jennings.
The unveiling of the Larkin Statue at Paragon Station, Ferensway, Hull. Pictured is Sculptor Martin Jennings.
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PLANS have moved a step closer for a permanent memorial in recognition of Sheffield’s Women of Steel - with the recruitment of a world-class sculptor to take on the job.

Artist Martin Jennings has been commissioned to create a figurative memorial in recognition of the women of Sheffield who served their city and country by working in the steel industry and factories during World War I and World War II.

Among Martin’s works are statues of poet John Betjeman at St Pancras Station, poet Philip Larkin in his home town of Hull and the country’s first statue of Charles Dickens in Portsmouth where the writer was born.

Following consultations with some of the Women of Steel, it was found their preference was for a figurative statue, probably made of bronze, in the city centre.

Martin will work with the women and the public to produce a model for the work by the end of July.

He said: “It is a great honour to have been asked to make this important monument in Sheffield.

“I had the pleasure of meeting some of the indomitable Women of Steel a short while ago and listened in awe to their tales of backbreaking toil in the wartime steel industry.

“Little recognition was given at the time to the years they lost in this hard but vital endeavour. These hidden heroines contributed so much to our national salvation all those years ago.

“I need now to listen further to their stories before proposing an idea for a monument that will properly reflect their place in history.”

Woman of Steel Ruby Gascoigne, pictured right, told The Star: “We all agreed Martin was the perfect candidate for this project. His work is wonderful, he knows how to tell a story through people.

“His Betjeman sculpture stands in St Pancras and is seen by millions. It is so exciting that millions more will see the Women of Steel sculpture in years to come.

“Martin has an amazing track record and has worked on some very prestigious commissions. I’m very excited that we are working with him.”

Council leader Julie Dore added: “The Women of Steel deserve our utmost respect and we are determined to award them the honour they so truly deserve.”

The council has committed £28,000 so far to the project, with a fundraising target of a further £120,000. Sheffield fundraising expert David Heugh is working with the council to help secure the additional money.

The first stage of the campaign will be focused on raising money from local businesses, charitable trusts and foundations.

A public fundraising drive will be launched later this year once the artist’s design and timeline for the project is finalised.

- A campaign to recognise the Women of Steel began following national recognition for the wartime efforts of the Land Girls

- The Women of Steel routinely worked 12-hour shifts for little pay, with days off and holidays banned

- A commemorative plaque honouring the Women of Steel was unveiled in Barker’s Pool last year

- The women were honoured at a reception held at 10 Downing Street by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and were invited to the House of Commons

- Their stories inspired both a film and an innovative oral history project recording their stories for posterity